Campaign for Accountability Files Bar Complaint Against Trump Counsel Marc Kasowitz

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2017

Contact: Daniel Stevens, 202-780-5750, dstevens@campaignforaccountability.org

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Bar alleging that President Donald J. Trump’s personal attorney, Marc E. Kasowitz, may have violated District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct.  According to press reports, Mr. Kasowitz has advised White House staff that they need not retain counsel in connection with the investigations into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and whether the president engaged in obstruction of justice.

CfA executive director Daniel E. Stevens stated, “Given how easily President Trump dismisses ethics rules, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that his personal attorney appears to be similarly cavalier with ethics.  But unlike Congress, the D.C. Bar actually enforces the rules.”

Read the complaint here.

On June 11, The New York Times reported that Mr. Kasowitz bypassed the White House Counsel’s Office and met White House staff members, advising them that it is unnecessary for them to retain their own counsel.

White House staffers are understandably concerned about whether they are in any legal jeopardy, yet also likely worried about the expense of hiring a lawyer. Staffers’ interests may conflict with those of the president so relying on Mr. Kasowitz’s advice may be risky.  Further, Mr. Kasowitz has an interest in speaking with potential witnesses before they are interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, something he might not be able to do if those staffers were represented by counsel.

District of Columbia Professional Rule of Conduct 5.5(a) provides “a lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction where doing so violates the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction.”  Rule 4.3 prohibits lawyers from offering any unrepresented party who has a potential conflict of interest with the lawyer’s own client with any advice other than that they retain counsel.

Mr. Kasowitz does not appear to be a member of the District of Columbia Bar.  As a result, by meeting with White House staff within the White House complex and offering the legal opinion that those staffers need not hire counsel, he may have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.  In addition, by advising White House staff members, who are not represented by counsel and who have a reasonable possibility of having interests that conflict with those of  Mr. Kasowitz’s client, President Trump, Mr. Kasowitz appears to have violated Rule 4.3.

Stevens continued, “Convincing White House staffers that they don’t need lawyers, leaving Mr. Kasowitz free to work with them will certainly help him shape President Trump’s legal strategy, but it might not be best for the staffers themselves.  The D.C. Bar should investigate to ensure Mr. Kasowitz is not taking advantage of anyone.”

Campaign for Accountability is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, nonpartisan watchdog organization that uses research, litigation and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.